The year 2008 was an extraordinary year for China as a country. It was also a year of many changes for churches in China. The May 12th earthquake thrust underground Christian churches in China onto the surface, from the sidelines onto center stage. They became sons of light, building a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. In the aftermath of the earthquake, a movement first conceptualized by house churches to connect churches throughout China gave birth to the non-profit organization China's Christians' Love in Action (CCLA).
CCLA has its roots in house churches and has maintained a close relationship with them since inception. From rescue efforts immediately following the earthquake to later reconstruction work, CCLA strives to be both a compassionate aid provider and a bridge that brings government and churches together, legitimizing churches' humanitarian efforts and gaining recognition and support from authorities.
China's churches faced an inevitable question in 2008: How can the church fulfill its social responsibilities and be relevant in the mainstream culture? A church that cannot impact the community or be embraced by society at large is powerless, incapable of fulfilling God's Great Commission. Even as China's house churches were rehearsing for their roles, a historic opportunity presented itself. We must be grateful that China's house churches did not shy back or retreat, but boldly responded to the call.
In this calling, God had bestowed upon China's Christians another responsibilitythat of being his stewards. According to his own divine will and the ability of his servants, God distributes his wealth for each Christian to manage. Each of us can be the servant who received five talents, two talents, or one talent. How much we are entrusted with is God's prerogative; but the key is our faithful management of our talents.
The word faithfulness has two definitions. The first is to guard a property from waste or damage. God himself brought CCLA into existence so no single person or organization can claim ownership or glory. CCLA's only role since its inception is that of a conduit, channeling Christian churches' compassion and funds to affected areas, into the hands of desperate victims, bringing love and hope to the lonely and hopeless. Sustained by churches' financial resources, human resources and fervent prayers, CCLA distributed several million dollars worth of donated goods by immersing itself in the lives of victims. Every penny went to the needy without any trace of waste or fraud.
The second definition of faithfulness is the willingness to take risks on God's behalf, instead of burying that one talent. Those who never take risks do not need faith. Those who do not need faith do not need God, nor want to rely on God. God placed China's churches in the center of his ordained storm. We must stand at the bow and ride out the storm. It is not an easy choice, but one that comes with tough challenges. From a divine perspective, every crisis is an opportunity, for "all things work together for good for those who love God." CCLA welcomes the challenge.
Starting June 17, CCLA bucked a longstanding antagonistic relationship between the house church and the government by initiating dialogues with various levels of authoritiesfrom provincial to city to local villageto gain their approval and support. At the same time, CCLA served as a clearinghouse, collecting donations from house churches throughout China as well as churches and charities from overseas. The effort demanded immense discernment and wisdom, which can only come from the Lord. There were spiritual battles along the way that could only be overcome with unwavering vision, determination and patience. It was through these circumstances that God developed us, growing us into faithful stewards after his own heart. We were able to know him and draw close to him. He is our stronghold, our ever-present help in trouble. As the scope of work expands, so does the risk it presents. Taking risks for God is always worthwhile and has its rewards, for he has promised: "For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."
As God's stewards, faithfulness must be accompanied by goodness, or good character, as well as a sense of self-awareness. Everything is from the Lord and belongs to him. Our job, like Moses', is to faithfully complete what is asked of us. We must never, ever take advantage of our position or hold onto anything in God's house as our own. We also need to have a kingdom mindset and vision because what we are entrusted with is God's business, not to be confused with personal domain or enterprise. China's Christian churches should take great caution against self-pride or self-content, as well as rivalry or contest among ourselves. Only when we each take on God's eyes and heart can we work together despite differences of opinions and gifts. Only then can his Kingdom be enlarged.
It is of primary importance that we build our life's foundation on the solid rock that is our Lord Christ Jesus. No matter how fast or big China's churches grow, without this vital key all is just withering grass and drifting clouds. All God's servants must be vigilant, for his judgment begins with his own household.
Translated by Alice Loh.